highlight - Man Page

a universal sourcecode to formatted text converter


highlight [OPTIONS]... [Files]...


Highlight converts sourcecode to HTML, XHTML, RTF, ODT, LaTeX, TeX, BBCode, Pango markup, SVG, XTERM or ANSI escape sequences. There are several colour themes available. Highlight recognizes keywords, numbers, strings, comments, symbols and preprocessor directives. It supports about 180 programming languages, which are defined in Lua scripts.

It's easily possible to enhance highlight's database of programming languages and colour themes. See the README file for details.

General Options

-B,  --batch-recursive=<wildcard>

convert all files matching the wildcard (uses recursive search)

-D,  --data-dir=<path>

set path to highlight data directory


set path to a lang or theme file

-h,  --help[=topic]

print this help or a topic description
<topic> = [syntax, theme, plugin, config]

-i,  --input=<file>

name of input file

-o,  --output=<file>

name of output file

-d,  --outdir=<output directory>

name of output directory

-P,  --progress

print progress bar in batch mode

-S,  --syntax=<type|path>

set type of source code, necessary if input file suffix is missing. The syntax may also be defined as path of the language file.


specify type of source code by given name.  Will not read a file of this name, useful for stdin and to determine the syntax of the file before piping its content to highlight. This option overrides --syntax.

-v,  --verbose

print debug info to stderr

-q,  --quiet

suppress progress info in batch mode


generate output if input syntax is unknown. The fallback syntax may be set here, Plain Text is default.


list installed scripts  <type> = [langs, themes, plugins]


filter the scripts by the given categories (example: --list-cat='source;script')


set maximum input file size (examples: 512M, 1G; default: 256M)


execute Lua plug-in script; repeat option to apply multiple plug-ins


set plug-in input parameter. This might be an input file name (ie. 'tags').


print path configuration


print stylesheet only (see --style-outfile)


ignore listed unknown file types (example: --skip='bak;c~;h~')


define nested language which starts input without opening delimiter


output to stdout (batch mode, --print-style)


test if input is a valid text file


print version and copyright info

Output Formatting Options

-O,  --out-format=<format>

output file in given format <format>=[html, xhtml, latex, tex, rtf, odt, ansi, xterm256, truecolor, bbcode, pango, svg]

-c,  --style-outfile=<file>

name of style definition file

-T,  --doc-title

document title

-e,  --style-infile=<file>

name of file to be included in style-outfile

-f,  --fragment

omit header and footer of the output document (see --keep-injections)

-F,  --reformat=<style>

reformat output in given style. <style>=[allman, gnu, google, horstmann, java, kr, linux, lisp, mozilla, otbs, pico, vtk, ratliff, stroustrup, webkit, whitesmith, user]

The user style does not apply a predefined scheme. Use --reformat-option to define reformatting behaviour.


apply an astyle cmd line option (assumes -F). Can be repeated to override settings of the chosen indentation scheme.

-I,  --include-style

include style definition in output

-J,  --line-length=<num>

line length before wrapping (see -V, -W)

-j,  --line-number-length=<num>

line number length incl. left padding. Default length: 5

-k,  --font=<font>

set font (specific to output format)

-K,  --font-size=<num?>

set font size (specific to output format)

-l,  --line-numbers

print line numbers in output file

-m,  --line-number-start=<cnt>

start line numbering with cnt (assumes -l)


output only lines from number <start> to <end>

-s,  --style=<style name|path>

set highlighting style (theme). Add 'base16/' prefix to use a Base16 theme. The theme may also be defined as path of the theme file.

-t  --replace-tabs=<num>

replace tabs by num spaces

-u,  --encoding=<enc>

set output encoding which matches input file encoding; omit encoding information if set to "NONE"

-V,  --wrap-simple

wrap lines after 80 (default) characters without indenting function parameters and statements.

-W,  --wrap

wrap lines after 80 (default) characters (use with caution).

-z,  --zeroes

fill leading space of line numbers with zeroes


use a theme of the Base16 collection. Use a classic theme otherwise.


set CR as end-of-line delimiter (MacOS 9)


output each syntax token in separate tags (verbose output)


output plug-in header and footer injections in spite of -f


output all keywords in given case if language is not case sensitive


omit trailing newline. If mode is "empty-file", omit only for empty input


omit version info comment


omit line numbers of wrapped lines (assumes -l)

(X)HTML Options

-a,  --anchors

attach anchors to line numbers (HTML only)

-y,  --anchor-prefix=<str>

set anchor name prefix

-N,  --anchor-filename

use input file name as anchor name

-C,  --print-index

print index file with links to all output files

-n,  --ordered-list

print lines as ordered list items


set CSS class name prefix; omit class name if set to "NONE"


output CSS within each tag (verbose output)


enclose fragmented output with pre tag (assumes -f)

Latex Options

-b,  --babel

disable Babel package shorthands

-r,  --replace-quotes

replace double quotes by \dq


adapt output for the Beamer package


improve appearance of brackets and other symbols

RTF Options


include page color attributes

-x,  --page-size=<size>

set page size, <size>=[a3, a4, a5, b4, b5, b6, letter]


include character stylesheets

SVG Options


set image height (units allowed)


set image size (see --height)

Terminal Escape Output Options (Xterm256 or Truecolor)


set background colour padding (default: 80)

Gnu Source-Highlight Compatibility Options


create stand alone document


cancel the --doc option


the external style sheet filename


source language

-t, --tab=INT

specify tab length

-n, --line-number[=0]

number all output lines, optional padding


number all output lines and generate an anchor, made of the specified prefix
p + the line number  (default='line')


output directory


if no language definition is found for the input, it is simply copied to the output

Env Variables

Highlight recognizes these variables:


sets the path to highlight's configuration scripts


may contain command line options, but no input file paths.


If no in- or output files are specified, stdin and stdout will be used for  in- or output. Since version 3.44, reading from stdin can also be triggered by the '-' option.

Default output format: xterm256 or truecolor if appropriate, HTML otherwise.

Style definitions are stored in highlight.css (HTML, XHTML, SVG) or highlight.sty (LaTeX, TeX) if neither -c nor -I is given. For CSS, definitions are stored in the output document header with -I, if -f is also given there will be no style definitions.

Reformatting code (-F) will only work with C, C++, C# and Java input files.


Wrapping lines with -V or -W will cause faulty highlighting of long single line comments and directives.  Using line-range might interfere with multi line syntax elements. Use with caution.    


The configuration files are stored in /usr/share/highlight/. Language definitions, themes and plugins are located in subdirectories.

Documentation files are stored in /usr/share/doc/highlight/ , configuration files in /etc/highlight/.

See README how to install own scripts in the home directory.


Single file conversion:

highlight -o hello.html -i hello.c

highlight -o hello.html hello.c

highlight -o hello.html -S c < hello.c

highlight -S c < hello.c > hello.html

Note that a file highlight.css is created in the current directory.

Batch file processing:

highlight --out-format=xhtml  -B '*.cpp' -d /home/you/html_code/

converts all *.cpp files in the current directory and its subdirectories to xhtml files, and stores the output in /home/you/html_code.

highlight --out-format=latex  * -d /home/you/latex_code/

converts all files to LaTeX, stored in /home/you/latex_code/.

Use --quiet to improve performance of batch file processing (recommended for usage in shell scripts).

Use highlight --out-format=xterm256 <yourfile> | less -R to display a source file in a terminal.

Run highlight --list-scripts=langs to see all supported syntax types.


Andre Simon <as@andre-simon.de>

See Also

README file and highlight webpage at http://www.andre-simon.de/.

Referenced By


2020-01-18 Andre Simon user documentation